Last year, CuseNation.com followed the two early quarterback commits in Syracuse's 2013 class throughout their senior seasons. The quarterback diaries are back with the 2014 signal caller commitment, A.J. Long. His season starts on Friday, and believes his team is poised for big things.
"We shouldn't have a problem winning another state championship," Long declared. "As long as we keep our confidence and don't let things bother us. We have all but one new receiver. All of my guys from last year graduated, but one transferred because he didn't like anyone at our school. We have an entire new receiving core. We have two new offensive linemen.
"Both played last year but are playing different positions. We had our first scrimmage Friday. They were better athletes than us across the board. We tied them 7-7. We played pretty well especially considering they are a 4A school and have more kids than us. This team, we'll be very good this year and we should win a state championship."
The new group at receiver poses a problem for Long and his teammates. They must get the wideouts integrated into the offense so that the offense can get in rhythm at the start of the season. The next few days of practice will be critical.
"We really haven't had the chance to work together yet," Long admitted. "One was on a travel team so he wasn't at practice much. Another injured his knee so he couldn't run. The third one just showed up out of the blue. He didn't really show out last year in practices or anything.
"This year he's been doing really well. We haven't really had the chance to get comfortable with each other this summer. Right now we're still building the timing and the relationship for everything to go smoothly."
Long has had a busy summer traveling north to visit Syracuse on multiple occasions, and helping the Orange with some of their recruiting targets. However, that hasn't stopped him from working hard on his craft.
"I think I've improved in certain areas," Long explained. "Like understanding defenses and how they try to disguise them. I've gotten better with my footwork. My arm strength has probably been my biggest improvement. I've really been working on that this summer. Before, everybody was saying I didn't have the strongest arm.
"Now, after fine tuning all of the mechanics and stuff, doing the shoulder exercises and wrist exercises, there shouldn't be a reason for anybody to think that."
First up for Long and Friendship Christian Academy is Harding Academy. Long believes they will have a positive start to the season if they execute properly.
"Our first opponent is Harding Academy," Long said. "They're a good football team from what I understand. They're a good team, they're physical. They're a lot like ourselves. We just have to play well and our playmakers have to make plays. That's what it's going to be with them because we're not sure how they're going to run their offense because we haven't played them before being in a new division. Last year we were in division 1-2A, this year we're in division 2-2A. It's better quality teams."
Long has become the leader in the efforts to help the Syracuse staff bring in a talented class in 2014. He believes, so far, those efforts have created a very strong recruiting haul.
"Our class so far, in my mind I don't think would beat us if you put us up against them," Long claimed. "Simply because our entire class is underrated because of one single attribute and that's height. If you give every single one of the guys that's committed so far a 6-foot-2 frame or something, they're four star or five star guys. You see how Zaire plays, you see how Colton plays, you see Rodney.
"The only person that's committed that has that size for his position is K.J. He's a four star, probably going to be a five star by the end of the season. Our class, pound for pound, is probably the best class so far."
Two important targets for the Orange are visiting this week. Long believes Syracuse is in a very strong position with one, while they are working on that with the other.
"With Aaron Roberts, I have a feeling he's not going anywhere else," Long described. "When he visits, he'll commit to us and then that'll be a done deal. Thomas Holley, I'm not really sure about him because I haven't had a chance to talk to him.
"The only way I have to get a hold of him is on Twitter and that's just the luck of the draw if you can get him on a day where he's checking that. Getting him up there is going to be a great thing. Then we can show him what we're building at Syracuse. I think once he gets there, being a New York kid and being at New York's college, that will help a lot."
As prospect's senior seasons are set to get underway, Long believes Syracuse will be targeting players who will be helping the Orange offense.
"We're probably going after guys on the offensive side of the ball," Long outlined. "A lot of the kids we wanted before the season were all defense. With the season starting, we're going after offensive guys because our defense is pretty set after we get two defensive linemen."
Despite those beliefs, there is one defensive target who is one of the highest on Syracuse's board. Long believes the Orange are in a strong position with Deion Hallmon.
"He's the same as Aaron Roberts," Long remarked. "I think once he visits, it's over. If he doesn't because maybe he can't get up there, I still think it's a done deal. I think after he saw what we are creating with all the commits we have, even K.J. said something to him. And K.J. doesn't say a lot. I think he's all in on us so it's just a matter of time before he pledges Orange."
Offensive tackle has been a position of need entering the class. Despite no commitments so far in 2014, Long believes Syracuse will target that position going forward.
"I've seen the guys they are targeting on Scout, Rivals and ESPN," Long explained. "A lot of them are offensive tackles like Marcus Applefield and Chad Mavety. That's one position they're going after because they know we're going to need it in the years to come. That's one position that we're definitely targeting."
Running back is the other hot button position for Orange fans. Long believes Syracuse could end up with one or two, depending on how things play out.
"I think they're either going to take one or two," Long said. "It all just depends on who we get. I'd say if we get Ish Witter or Qadree they might take one. But if Erv Phillips commits first, we might take two. Simply because, Erv is a great running back but he's probably going to play like what Percy Harvin did at Florida.
"More of like a jet sweep guy than a between the tackles even though he could do that. Who commits first will determine how many running backs we take."